I was e-chatting with a friend earlier today, peppering him with questions about dorm life at a college I’d picked for my current protagonist. I asked him if he took his meals in the dining commons when he lived there or did he subsist on Cup O’Noodles alone.
He ate at one of the commons. But he couldn’t remember which one. All he remembered was the food.
Ah, the food, he said.
And I mistook sarcasm for nostalgic reminiscing. I thought he was e-saying “Ah, the food!” but he was really saying, “Yuck! The food!” Do you know how to say “Yuck! The food!” in sarcasmlish?
“Ah, the food!”
That’s the problem with e-sarcasm. It’s nearly impossible to detect. You can’t massage the tone or shape of your words with Stewie-like (Family Guy) cynicism. The words stand alone, without anything to help you gauge their seriousness. In fact, sarcastic words in an email look just like informative words, so you wouldn’t necessarily even think to gauge the seriousness. It simply wouldn’t occur to you.
I wonder how many relationships are in tatters because of undetected e-sarcasm. How many ships have been sunk. How many jobs lost. How many hearts broken. How many unrealistic passages of books written. Do you hear the sarcasm in my e-voice right here?
There should be a font just for e-sarcasm. I’m not one to use those those hyper emoticons, so don’t send me down that road. Besides no little smiley face can accurately capture the sarcastic look. What I’d like is a type style that is solely for sarcastic e-words. No more guesswork, no more misunderstandings, no more conversational train wrecks.
A simple font that quietly declares, “I am just kidding here,” without saying a word.
But. . . .
Is sarcasm sarcasm if you have to say, “Hey! This is sarcasm!” I mean, is that like having to explain a joke? Is a joke still funny if you have to explain it? Maybe a special font just for sarcasm would be like, like,
Having to explain a joke.
Yeah, it’s still a wee bit funny, but there’s little punch in the punch line.
Sarcasm gets its punch from the tone of the voice, doesn’t it? And the rolled eyes, the cocked head — all things which email cannot accommodate.
Maybe we need to work on that emoticon after all. . .